As soon as Ed Meese, Lyn Nofziger, Richard Allen, Martin Anderson, etc., etc. closed shop at the White House yesterday, out they went on the party circuit to pick up where they left off. They certainly found plenty to do.
First stop was a reception at the Sheraton-Carlton hotel given by the Hoover Institution, the West Coast think tank that has littered the Reagan administration with its fellows. Second stop was the Capital Hilton, site of a dinner for Washington fixture Bryce Harlow.
Scenes from Stop One:
1. "No, that's ridiculous," said Meese, referring to a suggestion that the administration would agree to the tax-cut proposal offered by the House Ways and Means Committee yesterday. "That's not a reasonable approximation of our position at all. It sounds to me like a first offer."
2. "None of your business," said special U.S. envoy Philip Habib, answering a question as to when he might return to the Mideast to negotiate the Lebanese crisis. "And that's off the record," he laughed.
"I thought he was going back today," said Defense Secretary Casper Weinberger. "Or maybe tommorrow."
A waiter in a tuxedo sidled up. "Mr. Secretary, how are you?" said the waiter to Weinberger.
"Oh, hi, how are you?" said Weinberger to the waiter.
(They've known each other for years. "He looks a little older now," said the waiter with fatherly concern, "now that he's got this tougher job.")
3. "The structure of the government is in place," said presidential personnel director Pendleton James, nonetheless admitting there are "thousands" of board and commission members still unappointed.
"But they don't run the government," James continued. "They run from the substantive to the ridiculous -- you know, the Advisory Committee on Native Hawaiians. I'm in no hurry to fill that one. Unless you want a trip to Hawaii."
White House aide Robert Garrick was in on this conversation, which took a quick turn when somebody asked if they had been Hoover fellows.
"No," said James, "we happen to be from California, where it's located."
"I thought it was in Colorado, by the dam," joked Garrick. "Oh, no, the dam is . . ."
"Shall we head out?" said James.
The Hoover Institution is in fact at Stanford University near Palo Alto, Calif., and these days in enjoying a renaissance. Ronald Reagan has said he's been "privileged to have a great deal of advice and help from the institution," a statement that has helped push the think tank into the spotlight.
Last night, the official reason for the party was to honor all of the fellows in the public-affairs program, started in 1965 by Allen, now national security adviser. Hoover alums like domestic policy adviser Martin Anderson turned out for the evening, but so did White House political director Lyn Nofziger, who isn't an alum. "Funny, I've never struck myself as a scholar," he said.
It was also a party for conservative gloating.
4. "You all think you're going to rule the world," one guest remarked.
"Aren't we?" responded Ed Feulner, the first Hoover public-affairs fellow and now president of the conservative Heritage Foundation.
5. "You didn't come to Houston! You rat!" Habib said to Richard Pipes, the National Security Council staffer who created a controversy in March when he suggested to the Reuter news service that detente was dead.
Pipes looked quietly at Habib, who was talking about a Council on Foreign Relations panel that met in Houston.
"You weren't on the panel!" Habib continued. "You gotta play the game! We had 150 people out there!"
"I wasn't sure," signed Pipes. "Dick [Allen] was very sensitive. That was about a week after my Reuters flap."
Scenes from Stop Two:
1. "They're a very sophisticated crew," said Bryce Harlow of the Reagan administration. "They know how the government works, they know where the problems are, they know how to get things done, and they know most of the key players."
Harlow advised presidents Richard Nixon and Dwight Eisenhower as well as candidate Gerald Ford before becoming a Washington lobbyist for Procter & Gamble. He's retired, but last night some of his old cronies gave him a dinner that started a scholarship fund for students of business-government relations.
Martin Anderson and his wife Annelise, an associate director in the Office of Management and Budget, came over from the Hoover party at the Sheraton-Carlton. So did Ed Feulner. White House staff director David Gergen turned up, and so did Sen. Robert Dole (R-Kan.). Nofziger was supposed to go, but said at the Hoover party he didn't want to put on a black tie. As it turned out, everybody had on business suits and plain old party dresses.
2. "Unless there is something unexpected that will turn up in the hearing, we expect him to be confirmed," said White House congressional liaison Mas Friedersdorf. He was referring to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, which is questioning Ernest Lefever, Reagan's controversial nominee for assistant secretary of state for human rights.
3. "He walked with kings," said the narration of a movie Harlow's friends had put together for the evening, "and never lost the common touch."